Unlocking the Energy – Another Job for Leaders

Frances Hesselbein once said,  “the Leader’s job, after all, is not to provide energy but to release it from others”

Admittedly, the initial image that popped into my head, on reading that quote, was a bit bizarre. (I’ll spare you the details).  And, I thought that Ms Hesselbein’s remark was not quite right or perhaps an oversimplification of a very difficult job.

But then I wondered.  What does it actually take for people to unlock hidden reservoirs of energy from others and have them use it willingly in the accomplishment of great work?  As a matter of fact what does it take to make me give my best?

So I had a little think about it and here’s what I came up with.

First, give me something I can relate to and believe in.

For me, work transcends into something meaningful when I know why it’s important and  the part I have to play is equally important.  If I can feel that importance, then I stop thinking about it as work and start thinking about it as contribution, which to me, is something I do by choice.

Second, work with me.

I don’t mean that you should do the work I’m doing or be there every minute.  No, I mean, talk to me from time to time.  Let me know  I’m on the right track and if I’m not, help me to make adjustments.  Tell me what I need to do, or be, to succeed.  Let me know you’re interested in what I’m doing.  And yes, occasionally, roll up your sleeves and work alongside me.  That will help me to build my sense of common purpose.  As well, I seem to have more energy when I feel that the work I do is important enough for you to pitch in from time to time.

Third, please Don’t Hover

There is a fine line between working with me and hovering over me. If I satisfy your need to know that I know what I’m doing, then let me get on with it.  If you hover, you can be sure that my energy level will plummet pretty fast.  On the other hand, I can get pretty stoked when I know that you trust me to do my part without having to give me constant direction.

Fourth, give value to my contribution

There is nothing more energizing to me than being acknowledged for doing my job well.  It doesn’t have to be a big deal but from time to time, I need to know that what I’m doing is appreciated and valued.

Fifth, and finally, (at least for now), help me to make my work life fun.

I don’t expect you to be a constant source of entertainment.  I know there is serious work to be done. But at work, as in life, there are, well, absurdities that just need to be laughed at.  I have so much energy when I can laugh in the company of my colleagues.  It breaks any tension that might be hanging around and really helps me to keep a healthy perspective when I need it.

So that’s it for now, from me anyway.

What about you?  What turns you into the Energizer Bunny?

As a leader, how do you help others get energized?



Filed under Building Relationships, communication, motivating & Inspiring

14 responses to “Unlocking the Energy – Another Job for Leaders

  1. Leslie

    Arrgh, yes — please don’t hover! (That one is painfully familiar to me.) It’s so counterproductive.

    I would add: Be an example. Model the behaviour you’d like your team to exhibit.

    • Gwyn Teatro

      Hi Leslie

      Yes, hovering is something that needs swatting and saps the energy right out of the room.
      You add a good one. Watching a leader who, provides a model for what is possible is very energizing indeed!

      Thanks for coming by!

  2. Gwyn this is a great quote and excellent post. I wish more people understood that engagement isn’t something you “do” to people. Its a choice they make based on the circumstances they find themselves in, and who they are.


    • Gwyn Teatro

      Hi David,

      Thanks so much for your kind words and comment.

      Your words made me think that in order to engage, you have to first *be* engaged. So as much as leaders are required to unlock energy in others so must they find ways and models to build it and release it in themselves.

      • Gwyn, I think thats a good point. It reminds me of the old saying among psychologists (those who are therapists, which I am not) that you cannot take someone to a place where you yourself have not been. That’s why being a manager often requires that you “Manage Yourself” first, as the great Peter Drucker pointed out.

        I also think this whole thing also brings up the issue of personality; some people are so disgruntled they will not engage, no matter how great the environment! If you Google Dr. Cris Wildermuth, she has been studying personality and engagement, its very interesting.

        best, David

      • Gwyn Teatro

        Thanks for pointing me in the direction of Dr Wildermuth, David. I’ll look her up as recommended.

        As well, you have prompted another thought and that is, that this notion of unlocking energy in others cannot assume a common base line. People go to work with varying degrees of “stuff” that influences the degree to which they are willing to engage. So, to your point, while you might get great results with some folks, others might not respond quite as hoped. I suppose that’s simply human nature huh?

  3. What energizes me? Feeling listened to. Pure and simple.

    • Gwyn Teatro

      I hear you Mary Jo!

      And, I think it is often the pure and simple actions, like letting people know they are heard, that make a difference in the amount of energy that ultimately goes into the work.

      Thanks for your comment and for coming by!

  4. Congratulations! This post was selected as one of the five best independent business blog posts of the week in my Three Star Leadership Midweek Review of the Business Blogs.


    Wally Bock

  5. Gwyn,
    What a great name for a blog! I had one guy working for me who used this as his mantra… he was absolutely great to work with because of that attitude. After all, you can’t micromanage the un-micromanageable (I just made a word).

    On the subject of hovering over people etc, my theory is that this type of behaviour by our bosses is driven by fear.

    Thanks for giving me some stuff to ponder…

    Landon Creasy

    • Gwyn Teatro

      Hi Landon

      Thanks! And, “un-micromanageable” is a fine word, although I wouldn’t want to have to say it three times, fast 🙂

      Yes, I think you have something when you say that hovering over people is driven by fear. I read your blog post and agree with your reasoning. It is often fear of loss that drives us to pull the reigns in.
      The trouble of course with that is, that the tighter we pull on the reigns, the more people will strain against them and that is at the very least, counter-productive.

      Thanks for coming by! I appreciate your input.

  6. Your first and fourth points resonate so strongly — calling out the need for meaning, purpose, acknowledgment and appreciation in our work. Even better when all four of those can be combined into one statement, but that takes real practice and training for some. One way to summarize is specific, authentic and actionable praise — more on that here if you’re interested: http://bit.ly/2JEkqA

    • Gwyn Teatro

      Hi Derek,

      Thanks so much for your comments! And I appreciate your making reference to your blog post. I can only agree that acknowledgement has to be “specific, actionable and authentic” in order to have the desired affect. Otherwise, energy-wise at least, it can get pretty deflating, pretty quickly.

      Thanks for coming by!

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